Satellite images show Israel attack damaged Syrian airport runway

Satellite images show the strike tore a hole through the runway, as well as igniting a grass fire at the airfield.

An Israeli attack targeting a Syrian airport tore a hole in the runway and also damaged a nearby stretch of tarmac, as well as a structure on the military side of the airfield, satellite photos have revealed.

The attack on Aleppo International Airport on Wednesday night came as an Israeli strike only months earlier took out the runway at the country’s main airport in the capital, Damascus, targeting Iranian weapons transfers to the country.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency acknowledged Wednesday’s attack, without offering details on the damage or what was hit.

The satellite photos taken on Thursday by Planet Labs PBC, and analysed by the Associated Press, showed vehicles gathered around the site of one of the raids at the airport, near the western edge of its sole runway. The attack tore a hole through the runway and ignited a grass fire at the airfield.

Just south of the runway, debris lay scattered after another raid that struck an object on the tarmac and another structure.

Satellite image
An Israeli attack targeting a Syrian airport tore a hole in the runway and also damaged a nearby stretch of tarmac and a structure on the military side of the airfield [Planet Labs PBC/AP]

Syria, like many Middle Eastern nations, has dual-use airports that include civilian and military sides. Flights at the airport have been disrupted by the attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based opposition war monitor, alleged immediately after the strike that Israel targeted an Iranian missile shipment to Aleppo airport.

Iran, as well as its ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, has been crucial to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power since a war began in his country amid the 2011 Arab Spring.

Just before the strike, a transponder on an Antonov An-74 cargo plane flown by Iran’s Yas Air, sanctioned since 2012 by the US Treasury over flying weapons on behalf of Tehran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, briefly pinged near Aleppo, according to flight-tracking data. The altitude and location suggested the plane planned to land in Aleppo.

Cargo aircraft over Syria often do not broadcast their location data. A phone number listed to Yas Air rang unanswered on Friday.

Iran and Syria’s missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday from The Associated Press.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air raids against its neighbour since war broke out in Syria in 2011, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters from Hezbollah.

While Israel rarely comments on individual attacks, it has acknowledged carrying out hundreds in Syria that it has said are necessary to prevent regional rival Iran from gaining a foothold on its doorstep. It did not directly acknowledge Wednesday’s strike.

Such attacks have rarely caused major flight disruptions.

The strike comes as tensions across the wider Middle East remain high as negotiations over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers hang in the balance.

satellite images
Israel, which has conducted numerous attacks on Syria in its shadow war with Iran in the wider Middle East, has not directly acknowledged Wednesday’s strike [Planet Labs PBC/AP]